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AUBURN
Re-elected Auburn city councilors sworn in on New Year's Day

AUBURN — Debby McCormick and Terry Cuddy renewed their oaths of office for a second four-year term as Auburn city councilors on New Year's Day.

“I'd like to thank the voters of Auburn for sending Terry and Debby back to this council,” Mayor Michael Quill said.

Speaking of the whole council, he added, “we have respect for each other, we have compassion, we have diverse backgrounds, but our thrust is to make the city of Auburn better and better.”

Both councilors expressed immense gratitude for being re-elected.

“Thank you all, and all the residents of the city of Auburn for believing in me and trusting me to serve another four years as your city councilor. I am honored, very honored, to be elected to serve a second term,” McCormick said.

“I will continue to represent the city of Auburn, the people, its history, and its future,” Cuddy said after thanking voters for his re-election.

Facing the challenge of Owasco Lake was something both councilors mentioned in their speeches, and McCormick said helping that situation improve is what she is most looking forward to in this term.

“Everything is dependent on the lake,” McCormick said referencing businesses, quality of life, and tourism, among others. “We have a lot of important work to do in the next four years and I cannot think of a better person to work with than Councilor Terry Cuddy.”

Cuddy said this year he is most looking forward to seeing economic projects come to fruition.

“There has been progress over the last four years, many of us will especially see it this summer as several economic development and infrastructures projects are in full swing,” Cuddy said. “One notable project in particular is the construction of the Equal Rights Heritage Center right here, in the heart of history's hometown.”

Along with the Equal Rights Heritage Center, there has also been development of the Harriet Tubman National Park, waterfront revitalization, and partnerships with Cayuga Community College,

Listening well is a lesson both McCormick and Cuddy learned during their last term and plan to carry with them ahead.

“I learned to listen and not give up, to be persistent,” McCormick said, adding that she learned the importance of working with others, especially when you disagree.

“Slowing things down is a good thing,” Cuddy added when he said he learned to listen and give things time in order to understand them more fully.

Former Auburn Mayor Melina Carnicelli said she's witnessed McCormick and Cuddy serve humbly and valiantly, and noted that who they are as individuals and the skill sets they offer, “is exactly what will lead this city forward with care, high energy, optimism, good humor, and economic progress.”

She added, “on behalf of all here gathered, I offer congratulations as well as gratitude for your willingness to serve in elected office.”


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COMMUNITY
Few 'bear' the annual Aurora Polar Plunge to celebrate new year

AURORA — Snow or shine, for the past 15 years, Adam Rossbach has celebrated every New Year's Day the same way: First, he shimmies down to his swim trunks on the icy shore of Cayuga Lake. Then, with the help of a rescue diver, he jumps in. 

Jan. 1, 2018 was no different. 

Despite the 10-degree day and a wind chill of -2, Rossbach was one of four people to brave the frigid temps Monday morning by participating in the annual Polar Plunge in Aurora. 

At around 11 a.m., the 37-year-old Scipio native waded through the slush and ice until he was waist deep in the water. Then, holding his Buffalo Bills' baseball cap high above his head, he plunged below. 

The water was 38 degrees. 

Still, Rossbach smiled as he emerged from the lake, his hat back on his head. 

"Let's go Buffalo!" he chanted. "If the Buffalo Bills can make the playoffs, I can make the plunge!" 

The annual Polar Plunge began in 1991 when a loosely organized group called the Aurora Polar Bears made the first leap into the lake. Since then, it's become a New Year's Day tradition for families living in the village, as people gather outside St. Patrick's Church on Main Street to watch those brave enough to "bear" it. 

Carolyn Connors said her son began participating in 1995. At the time, he was the youngest swimmer to take part in the plunge at 13 years old.

Now, Connors said, she comes down to the dock every year — but for the most part, she stays on the sidelines. 

"I did it in 2011 because I decided I had to do it at least one year and it was kind of warm — but that was my one and only time," she said, laughing. "But it's really a lot of fun." 

For Rossbach, he said the plunge has always been a fun and crazy way for him and his family to start the new year. But this year, he went in the water on his own while some friends and relatives huddled for warmth on shore. 

"My brothers and I have been doing it for about 15 years, but they bailed on me this year," he said, rolling his eyes. "But everybody's got to start their new year off somehow. This might as well be mine." 


Megan Blarr / Megan Blarr, The Citizen 

A rescue diver helps four people enter Cayuga Lake for the 2018 Polar Plunge in Aurora on New Year's Day. 


Local
AUBURN
Crews battle large house fire, freezing temps in Auburn

An Auburn home was damaged in a heavy fire that displaced a woman and her dogs early Monday morning. 

At around 3:30 a.m. New Year's Day, the Auburn Fire Department was dispatched to a structure fire at the intersection of Washington and Orchard streets. Upon arrival, Auburn Fire Captain Matt Quill said firefighters found the house at 29 Orchard St. was fully engulfed with fire on all three floors. 

Due to the dangerously cold temperatures, four alarms were requested to bring in additional personnel. Quill said a downed power line blocked firefighters from accessing the hydrant in the front yard, which forced crews to use tank water from three engines to extinguish the fire. 

"The cold weather made it tough," he said. "The crews made a hit on the outside with a large-diameter hose, and once they knocked that down a little bit, they made an aggressive attack on the inside of the home."

As of 3 p.m., crews were still on scene to investigate the cause of the fire. No injuries were reported, but one resident was being assisted by the Red Cross. Quill said the occupant and her two dogs safely evacuated the home before driving down to the fire station to report the fire Monday morning. 

"Her cell phone was in a part of the house that was covered by fire or smoke, so she did the smart thing and got herself out and drove down to the fire station to report it," he said. 

Although there was extensive damage on all three floors of the home, Quill said he does not believe it is a total loss. 


STATE POLITICS
Report: Harry Wilson, top GOP recruit to challenge Cuomo, won't run for governor

Harry Wilson, a corporate restructuring expert who was viewed as a top prospect to challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2018, will not run for governor.

The New York Daily News cited a source close to Wilson who said family considerations were the primary factor in his decision not to seek the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Wilson told The Citizen in an interview last summer that his family would be a major factor in his decision-making process. He has four young daughters, including two in high school. As the founder of his own business, he now sets his own schedule. If he were elected governor, he would likely lose that ability due to the demands of the job.

With Wilson out of the race, New York Republicans lose a top candidate to challenge Cuomo's bid for a third term as governor.

Wilson pledged to spend $10 million of his own money in the race against Cuomo, who has a campaign war chest of nearly $26 million. The ability to at least partially self-fund a campaign made Wilson an appealing candidate for GOP leaders.

His experience as a statewide candidate — and his near victory in 2010 — also made him a strong potential challenger.

Eight years ago, Wilson was the Republican candidate for state comptroller against Tom DiNapoli, the Democratic incumbent. DiNapoli won by four percentage points. It was the closest a Republican has come to winning a statewide election since George Pataki was re-elected governor in 2002.

While Wilson is out of the race, Republicans have other candidates on their bench for 2018. The list includes Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who has already declared his candidacy for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. Kolb entered the race in December.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco, who serves as the Senate deputy majority leader, is exploring a run for governor. Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra are also considering gubernatorial bids. They are expected to decide soon whether to they will join the race for the party's nomination.

Cuomo was first elected in 2010. He won re-election in 2014 with 54 percent of the vote.